Pagan Blog Project 2014: “S” is for Skepticism
I’m not exactly the poster child for blind faith. Far from it. I grew up two steps from atheism, and even dipped my toes into the nu-atheist sphere for a couple months (god, I was an insufferable thirteen-year-old). But one doesn’t need to be a Dawkins-level atheist, or even really an atheist at all, to look at some of the stuff going on in the pagan community and go “huh?”. Hell, I’ve been riding this train for three years and I still occasionally go “huh?” at some of the stuff I read.
(Questions, Pretending, Skepticism…gee willikers, does it look like I have a theme?)
Even now, I’m not likely to be wowed by supposed miracles and visitations; me, I’m likely to say that if it’s true for the beholder, then more power to them. I’m not going to go around trying to convince people that the Wolf is real or that I got a hug from Bast; what does that do for me? Ego boost? If people believe me, then that’s fine. If they’re skeptical, that’s fine too.
I have some friends who are skeptics. Hell, by the standards of the more credible minds in the pagan community (can’t find my keys; must be faeries), I’m a Randi-level skeptic myself. I practice discernment as best I’m able to make sure that I’m not deluding myself that anything and everything is a Sign from On High (there’s a cat! Must be Bast!). But at the same time, I have to be open to signs that I’m not exactly alone.
A healthy dose of skepticism is just that – healthy. I know so many of us are so excited to be in contact with deities or spirits or other entities that we yearn to have everything we hear and see be a direct result of their action, of them flashing a neon sign at us once we finally “get it”. But we shouldn’t ascribe every little puff of wind to godly messages or every time our keys go missing that some mischievous deity or entity has made off with them. (More likely they ended up in the fridge due to a wacky divided-attention mishap.) I’d love to hear from the entities in my practice more, but I’ve accepted that it’s not all about me.
Put another way: A common point of eye-rolling in the pagan community is the tendency of some more overtly devout Christians (the nicest way I can put it) to claim everything from the rain to a bird’s caw to the action of God. (And hey, the Abrahamic God is supposed to be omnipotent and omniscient, so I see the point from that worldview.) But when we as pagans do the same thing with gods who may not possess either of those capabilities, we fall into the same trap as the people several members of the pagan community roll their eyes at.
So what does this mean for me? A life of skepticism makes it difficult for me to engage in a lot of the things that happen in the online pagan community, and it makes me tremendously bad at recognizing signs when they actually do show up (a tendency to overdiscern can be a problem in the opposite direction – but believe you me, when they want to get a message through to me, they do the equivalent of bringing a brass band crashing cymbals through my brain). But I for one would rather be overly skeptical than overly credulous.